Hello everyone and welcome to the Otaku Mind. Isekai anime has pretty much taken over the industry. You would think we would get tired of them seeing as how a majority of them have the same story and set up but nope, authors of isekai stories have been changing up the formula and giving us something new and unique that makes each story interesting and a must watch. The two series that I believed inspired this change to the formula are Konosuba and Re:Zero. Two series that go in the complete opposite direction of each other but at same time have helped shaped the isekai landscape to this day. Let’s take a look at how these two series changed the way we look at isekai.
Not the chosen ones
The main characters of Konosuba and Re:Zero are Kazuma and Subaru. Both these guys were shut-ins who did nothing with their lives and through unforeseen circumstances get sent to another world where to our shock they aren’t the chosen one. Kazuma and Subaru aren’t the chosen ones who were sent to this world to help save it or destined to take down some ultimate evil. While it’s true the ultimate goal in Kazuma’s world is to defeat the demon lord, that’s not what he originally set out to do. His goal was to get rich as an adventurer, impress ladies, and live a good life. Even when he decides he wants to defeat the demon lord, he doesn’t set out on a journey. He just stays in the town for beginners and takes up the occasional quest in order to make ends meet where by some divine joke he comes across a member of the demon lord’s army and gets roped into fighting them. We even find out there have been other people from his world who been reincarnated just as him in this alternate world who either chose to take up arms and fight the demon lord or just use their skills to benefit themselves and no one else.
Subaru has no idea why he’s in this alternate world or even how he got there. All he knows is that he has the power to travel back in time at certain save points whenever he dies and uses that power to avoid terrible outcomes in the future. He has no idea what his end goal is other than keeping those he cares about safe and alive. There’s no demon lord or great evil that needs to be vanquished, it’s just a battle for the throne and Subaru getting caught in the middle of it all. In the end both Kazuma and Subaru are just two guys trying to survive and live in their respective worlds while trying not to get involved in the issues of the world but somehow always getting roped in to situations that have a great impact on the world or those around them.
None of the characters are perfect
In isekai animes, the main character is usually overpowered or possesses a skill that makes them unbeatable and a perfect personality that’s noble and what everyone should strive to be. Kazuma and Subaru don’t have that. Aside from having a few skills, Kazuma is basically a normal human and he doesn’t have the best character. He’s kind of a jerk, a coward, and can be selfish at times only caring about himself and ignoring the feelings of those around him. That’s not to say he doesn’t care about his friends, he does, and has even shown moments where he’ll go above and beyond for them. The rest of the cast don’t have the best personality either. Aqua is a whiny goddess who causes more trouble than she does help and can be just as selfish as Kazuma. Darkness is a straight-up masochist who gladly puts herself in the line of fire just to get her fix of abuse and Megumin is Megumin, a mage who only knows one spell, refuses to learn other spells, and once she uses her spell she becomes useless. Kazuma pretty much has the worst party members you can imagine yet he doesn’t complain about his situation. He honestly believes that he can make this situation work out in the end if he works hard and it kind of has. Despite not having the best personality or the party members he never gives up and keeps trying to make an unfair situation work out for him.
Subaru’s power is seen more as a curse than an actual gift. Just like Kazuma he’s just a regular human. While he has the ability to use mana and can travel back in time, the skill is only available to him after he dies and not even he knows how it works. He also doesn’t have the best personality. He makes a lot of mistakes, he’s easily influenced by his emotions which cloud his judgement, he thinks he’s better than everyone when really he’s the weakest person in the room, and his actions can come across as self-satisfaction. Plus, the guy rejected Rem in favor of Emilia, that’s just dumb on his part. There’s actually an alternate story where Subaru and Rem run away and start a family in another land together where Rem actually grows out her hair so that she resembles Emilia in order to make Subaru happy. That’s just messed up. Just like Subaru the other characters aren’t exactly perfect either. Every action they take is meant to benefit them in some way. If they see something that doesn’t benefit them, then they won’t help. Because Subaru has experienced death a number of times his mental state isn’t the best either. There are times where he’ll slip into insanity or take his stress out on those around for no reason as nobody knows all the sacrifices he went through to reach this point and he can’t tell them about it either as his powers won’t let him. Subaru practically forces himself to smile and laugh in front of everyone when really, he’s suffering more mental stress than we could ever imagine.
Different approaches to the story
The final way these two series change the way we view isekais is their approach to their stories. Despite both series taking their stories in different directions that are the exact opposite of each other they present something new to isekai. Konosuba’s story is all about comedy. When people think of isekai they think of a character possessing a power and going off on a journey to save the world where everything works out for him in the end. Here, we don’t that. If anything, Konosuba makes fun of that idea. The point of Konosuba is that everything we would like to happen to us in a isekai anime doesn’t happen and instead of having a pleasurable experience it’s instead a rough experience where Kazuma has to start from the bottom and work his way up. But it’s presented in a comedic way that you can’t help but laugh at it and think that this could really happen if you did go to an alternate world.
Re:Zero is the exact opposite of Konosuba. The world of Re:Zero is dark and violent. Everything that Subaru would love to happen to him doesn’t happen. He dies a number of times in horrific ways and even has to do a number of playthroughs before he finds the right path which leads to a happy end for everyone. Re:Zero shows us that isekais don’t always have to be bright, fun, adventurous, and colorful. They can be dark, gritty, sad and even sadistic. It reminds us that just like our world has its dark moments so too do isekais. No matter where you go there’s always going to be problems you have to face. In life you will suffer and some choices you make will be the wrong choice but it’s up to you to keep getting back up and keep moving forward no matter how tough or painful it gets.
So in conclusion Konosuba and Re:Zero show us that the main character doesn’t have to be perfect, they can be flawed and not be seen as the chosen one sent to save the world from destruction. The rest of the characters don’t have to be perfect either. Just like the main character they too can be flawed thus making them more humanized and their development much more believable and understandable. Finally, they don’t always have to be serious and straightforward, they can comedic and fun or dark and gritty. Both Konosuba and Re:Zero change our perspectives on what an isekai is and instead show us what an isekai anime can be. I don’t know what the future will hold but by the looks of it isekai anime isn’t going anywhere as long as there are shows like Konosuba and Re:Zero that change the execution of the isekai stories and give us something new and interesting to watch.
What are your thoughts on isekai anime? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next time on Project Nitsuj.
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